Tyler Nelson will quite likely be playing his final season of competitive golf this fall.
The reigning Merrimack Valley Conference MVP and individual champion, Nelson fired a 72 in the Division 1 North tournament last year, placing fifth, helping propel Central Catholic to a runner-up finish. The Raiders will tee off against Chelmsford in their first match on Wednesday.
Yet until earlier this week, Nelson had his mind not on the greens but on the basketball court, and his future. And he was a bit stressed.
The talented 6-foot-1 guard, who has a sweet shot that extends beyond the 3-point arc, was weighing scholarship offers from six Division 1 programs before whittling the list down to three — Dartmouth, Fairfield, and Binghamton.
On Monday, he made his decision: Fairfield, a program on the rise under third-year coach Sydney Johnson.
“I am definitely relieved,” said Nelson. “It was stressful and a lot of thinking went into it, but I’m glad it’s over.”
His family has been through the college process already with his sister Alyssa, an all-scholastic swimmer at Haverhill High who is now a sophomore at Boston College, where she is a manager for the men’s basketball program.
Nelson’s father, Jeff, confirmed that it was stressful, “but it’s been a good stress.”
“He doesn’t take it for granted,” said the elder Nelson, the varsity golf coach at Reading High, where he is a teacher. He also works as an advance scout for the NBA’s Utah Jazz.
“He knows there are so many kids that are such great athletes, kids he knows and played ball with growing up, and here he is, getting an opportunity to play in college at the Division 1 level, It’s very humbling. But at the same time it’s a credit to him. He’s really earned it and worked really hard, at all his sports. . . . He realizes how lucky he has it. He’s a great kid. He’s a better person off the court than he is on the court.”
Now his son can turn his attention back to golf.
“I’m pretty excited about this season,” said Nelson, one of three returning Globe All-Scholastics in the area, joining St. John’s Prep sophomore Steve Dilisio and Brendan Crowther, a senior at Newburyport.
“Golf isn’t necessarily my main sport. Basketball is. But I’ve played golf for four years at Central. I love it.
“Personally I want to win MVP of the league, and to win individual champion. . . . And other than that we came in second last year in sectionals, we made it to states. . . . I want to make a better run. I want to win the league, the MVC, and I want to try to make a run in the state tournament, and go a little further this time.”
Central golf coach Vincent Pastore, entering his 17th season, said the “beautiful thing about Tyler is he’s a multi-talented athlete and he’s exceptional with golf. And he manages to do that without concentrating on one sport all year long, which is very unique, especially today.”
Pastore has not officially tabbed his captains yet. But Nelson, he said, will be one of the cocaptains.
“After all the success he’s had in all his sports, he’s a very modest and humble kid,” said the coach.
“People love to be around him for that reason. You would never know that he’s had so much success. He brings a comfortable ease to the rest of the group and great leadership qualities. . . . I think he helps the other guys understand how to succeed.”
While overlapping skill sets in golf and basketball may not be obvious, they exist. And for Nelson, they play to his strengths.
“He may have the greatest hands and eyes that I’ve seen in all the years I’ve coached,” said Pastore. “And they’re important in both sports, especially golf, which is a touch sport. He’s got great feel around the greens. He’s a great putter. So the sports work to his strengths. He’s probably the most feared shooter in the state and the most feared putter in the state for the same reasons. Once you get on the greens, he’s dangerous.”
But he knows Nelson’s future is on the court.
“I’d like to see him be happy, and his first love is basketball. I’m glad I’ve had him for the time I’ve had him. I’ve been fortunate to coach him.”
“Once golf is over,” said Nelson, “[I’ll] just focus on basketball, hope for a good senior year, and then be on my way to college.”